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New Orleans, President Bush Mark Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina

August 29, 2006 at 12:00 AM EDT

JIM LEHRER: What is happening with all that money promised to the Gulf Coast? Ray Suarez has our coverage, beginning with a report on today’s anniversary events in New Orleans.

RAY SUAREZ: On a day when New Orleans was commemorating the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, President Bush spent much of his visit there today reassuring residents that the federal government remains committed to the recovery of the city. During a speech at a local high school, the president was upbeat.

GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States: I have returned to make it clear to people that I understand we’re marking the first anniversary of the storm, but this anniversary is not an end. And so I come back to say that we will stand with the people of southern Louisiana and southern Mississippi until the job is done.

A lot of work has been accomplished, and I congratulate the people here, but there’s more work to be done.

RAY SUAREZ: Just three weeks after the storm hit last year, the president made this pledge to the American people from Jackson Square in the French Quarter.

GEORGE W. BUSH: We will do what it takes, we will stay as long as it takes to help citizens rebuild their communities and their lives. And all who question the future of the Crescent City need to know: There is no way to imagine America without New Orleans, and this great city will rise again.

Federal funds will cover the great majority of the costs of repairing public infrastructure in the disaster zone, from roads and bridges to schools and water systems. Our goal is to get the work done quickly.

RAY SUAREZ: Since then, Congress has allocated more than $110 billion of federal funds for Gulf Coast recovery. Of that amount, some $45 billion has already been pledged to the state of Louisiana and residents there.

GEORGE W. BUSH: I felt it was important that our government be generous to the people who suffered. I felt that step one of a process of recovery and renewal is money.

RAY SUAREZ: But the recovery process in and around New Orleans has been slow. Only half the city has electricity. Gas is running into about 41 percent of the homes and businesses using gas before Katrina. Violent crime is up, and less than half the city’s pre-Katrina population of 460,000 has come home.

Tens of thousands of families still live in trailers and mobile homes with no timetable for moving to more permanent housing. The president said the federal government is working to remedy that and get money quickly to Katrina victims.

GEORGE W. BUSH: The federal government is working with the Louisiana Recovery Authority to help people get back in their homes, and we’ve appropriated more than $10 billion to help people achieve that dream. Under this program, eligible homeowners will receive up to $150,000 for damage not covered by insurance or other federal assistance.

All of us agree at all levels of government that we’ve got to get the money as quickly as possible in the hands of the people so they can rebuild their lives and help this city recover.

But I also want to remind you that the federal government cannot do this job alone, nor should it be expected to do the job alone. This is your home; you know what needs to be done. And a re-born Louisiana must reflect the views of the people down here and their vision and your priorities.

The state and parish authorities have a responsibility to set priorities, and they’re doing so. We all have a responsibility to clear obstacles that stand in the way of meeting goals. And we got to make sure the money that has started to flow continues to flow.

RAY SUAREZ: President Bush also asked displaced residents living in other cities to return to New Orleans and help rebuild.